They say nothing is wasted—and tragedies can be an instrument to serve others going through what one went through.
This was the case with Milca Kapezi Mwamadi who is now in community involvement, advocating for the welfare of mothers in child birth to ensure that both the mother and the new born stay alive and healthy after delivery.
She suffered a miscarriage in the fifth month of her first pregnancy over a decade ago, but fortunately, this was followed by a successful birth of their first-born son Thandolwami in 2010.
In 2011, she got pregnant again and found out that she and her husband Chisomo were expecting twins—a boy and a girl.
“We were happy and excited. Unfortunately, in my eighth month I started having labour pains, and the babies decided to come early. They were born prematurely and were in the neonatal ward for a couple days. The boy then passed away after two days and the girl followed two weeks later.
“It was an agonising two weeks of our life, and after the babies’ death, we were left traumatised. What kept us going was the word of God and the support of our families and friends,” says Milca.
For her, the loss highlighted the need for someone to talk to about child loss. And because she also harboured hopes of having another child, she wanted other people’s opinions of good hospitals and care; as well as the best gynaecologists.
So she started a group on Facebook called Bun in the Oven, which later on became a support group.
“Many expectant mothers joined the group and we shared experiences and advice, but I concentrated mostly on the women who had lost babies or had problems conceiving.
“I gave them support and counsel, but mostly I prayed with them. God blessed me with a gift whereby I mostly dream about pregnant women or I am advised to pray for particular women who might be going through pregnancy issues,” she explains.
As such, Bun in the Oven gave her the opportunity to interact with so many women within the country as well as Malawians in the diaspora.
And because of this, one of the women Nelly Ngutwa who worked with Kamuzu College of Health Sciences approached and encouraged her to apply for the post of Community Engagement and Involvement in research that was taking place at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) under the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, funded by the National Institute of Health and Research (NIHR).
The research was about stillbirth and neonatal deaths and as a community, Milca and other women helped the researchers by giving them relevant information on the study, to help bring a difference in the hospital facilities and services.
The study came up with a number of great changes.
One of the challenges they highlighted in the study was on how women who had lost babies at the hospital shared the same wards as those who had successfully given birth.
But following the feedback, the hospital was able to make changes and separated the grieving women into their own ward, as before the change, the mixing of the two groups of women brought emotional torture to the grieving women.
With the funds from their research, they redecorated the ward and installed demarcation curtains to the room for privacy.
Now a happy mother of three, Milca leads such community engagement and involvements in eight countries, including Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Pakistan and India.
She was recently in India as part of NIHR Global Health Group (GHG) on prevention and management of stillbirth and neonatal deaths in Sub- Saharan Africa and Asia.
Maternal loss is often not talked about in Africa and other parts of the word such as Pakistan and India.
Having led community engagement and involvement in eight countries, and interacting with the women who have experienced loss in those countries, she observes that the trauma is the same, and that the mental impact is the common denominator in all these cases.
Accordingly, her advice to the women and families is to speak out and find someone who is willing to listen.
“Sometimes it is not only about medical treatment but also emotional support after the loss. I offer counsel to women and families,” says the 38-year-old who was once featured on the British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) on the impact of miscarriage around the world.
She is also ambitious in her future plans and dreams of building or running a hospital for baby deliveries where every pregnant woman is given hotel treatment.
“Having gone through the trauma of a miscarriage where I was left alone to give birth to my dead premature baby in the ward; and having lost our twin babies because the gynaecologist would not listen to my body warnings, I would love to see all women being treated as gently as an egg and pampered while giving birth,” says the second born of five children in her family.
She notes that among other challenges in attaining maternal health in the country is the shortage of staff in the public hospitals; lack of proper medication; and the lack of awareness in the villages about their rights and the rights of health workers.
Milcah, 38, is married to Chisomo Mwamadi and they have three children together— Thandolwami, Theodorah and Owami.
She spent her childhood in so many places as her father Maxwell worked as a farm manager before starting to work full time as a banker.
As such, she has lived at Toleza Farm in Balaka, Lombwa and Gada in Mchinji, Kasungu, Rumphi Mzuzu and Blantyre to mention a few.
After sitting her Malawi School Leaving Certificate at Joyce Banda foundation, she got her first job as administrative assistant at Media Link before joining Agrifeeds Limited later, but both companies closed down and she was left jobless. After being a stay at home mother for a while, she decided to join her husband in running their consultancy firm Tvents Consult, as she is also an event planner and manages weddings and any other events.